Hollywood And Retirement
In 1966, he accepted a role in the hit movie The Dirty Dozen. The scheduling conflict between the film and the beginning of football training camp led to Brown's abrupt retirement from football. At thirty-years-old and still in his prime, he left football and never looked back. Brown told Sports Illustrated, "I quit with regret but not sorrow. I've been able to do all the things I wanted to do, and now I want to devote my time to other things. And I wanted more mental stimulation than I would have had playing football." He left the game with, among others, the leagues' rushing record which would stand until Walter Payton broke it in 1984.
The year Payton broke the record in a mad dash with Franco Harris, who also coveted the accolade, Brown threatened to come back to football at the age of forty-seven. "He can break the record at his convenience because he has the cooperation of his organization," Brown said of Harris. "That's not a feat by my standards. It has nothing to do with overall performance. It has to do with specialized circumstances to break a record. You want to give me those circumstances, I'll come back and break any record they set." Whether making a statement about the state of the NFL in the middle eighties or having an actual desire to play again, Brown's willingness to risk public spectacle never came to fruition.
The mental stimulation that Brown sought would come in the form of many film roles including, Dark of the Sun, Ice Station Zebra and 100 Rifles. He also broke ground in Hollywood after being the first to portray an interracial love scene with co-star Raquel Welch. Although an important cinematic moment, Brown later blamed his screen persona on his waning popularity in Hollywood. Brown believed that his portrayal of desirable and strong characters on screen made white mainstream America nervous and led to a lack of work in years to follow. "I went from a major star to basically nothing," he said. "I think Hollywood just got tired of a big 'ol black Negro kissin' all their women."